IT’S been reported that Gary Lineker has invited a migrant to live in his big house in Surrey.
The Match of the Day presenter and former England striker is something of a hate figure among the Gammon community as he’s vocal on Twitter, particularly on issues of particular interest to Brexit Britain.
•He thinks Nigel Farage is a “dick”.
•He accused Donald Trump of “mind-numbing stupidity”.
•He described the Windrush scandal as a “national disgrace” and when an opponent accused him of jumping on the bandwagon he told him to “F**k off.”
•He despises Brexit.
•Almost as much as he despises Piers Morgan.
•And of course he’s appalled by the way immigrants are treated in the UK.
So when Lineker walked the walk on immigration and opened up his house the story was front-page news. So much so that the Radio Ulster lunchtime show Talkback did a segment on it.
Providing a new start to those who‘ve fled their homes represents the best of Britain's values. As we know refugees have always helped to keep our communities safe and make our society stronger. They even brought us fish & chips. Im standing with @RESCUE_UK to #StandWithRefugees pic.twitter.com/9zN9EeEmTQ— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) September 3, 2020
Now you’d think that a person throwing open his home to people in need was entirely A Good Thing. You’d think the way to cover it was maybe to get the bloke on – admittedly not an easy task for a local radio station with the story being so big. Or failing that, get one or two people on to have a nice chat about Lineker’s kindness and generosity, particularly at a time when kindness and generosity seem in very short supply. Half of that happened.
Somebody was brought on to say what a nice guy Gary Lineker is and how his gesture was a bright light in dark times. But then the BBC’s obsession with ‘balance’ kicked in.
We’ve seen that obsession play out badly in relation to the two biggest stories the corporation has covered in the past decade. During the run-up to the Brexit referendum, national BBC reports on the biggest stories turned into see-saw sessions during which someone would come on to rail against the latest in the notorious farrago of lies that that eventually won the day and then some Brexiter would be allowed to argue in support of the lies.
What should have been happening, of course, is that BBC reporters should have been reporting the lies as lies – but ‘balance’ trumped the lot. And when the Covid emergency arrived and the Tories cocked it up spectacularly, once again the BBC didn’t see its job as reporting on those failings and the errors which turned the UK into the Covid capital of Europe, rather somebody was brought on to point out those failings and then somebody from the government was brought on to point out that they weren’t failings at all.
Memorably, one of the few times that a reporter tried to do her job was the minute-long monologue that Emily Maitlis did on Newsnight, accusing Dominic Cummings of trashing the government’s Covid policy in flouting the lockdown restrictions. She was replaced as presenter the next night.
It was by this route that the estimable Martin Daubney appeared on Talkback to accuse “Lineker” (he refused to use his first name) of “virtue signalling” and to claim that whoever took up residence in the presenter’s home would doubtless be well vetted.
How did this happen? How has the BBC arrived at a place where there has to be another side to a story about a guy doing nice things for unfortunate people? Could it be that the Beeb has decided that Lineker is ‘political’ and therefore needs balanced in the way that MPs and ministers do? Possibly. But if joining in a public discourse on matters of social justice now makes a non-politician political, crazy times lie ahead. Or should that be crazier?
So who was the guy that Talkback got on to argue against Gary Lineker being nice? Well, the strange thing about him is that he’s not a politician either. Martin Daubney was a politician for a year when he served as an MEP for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, a colourful and chaotic assemblage of loons and zealots in the style of the Tommy Robinson meets Carry On Politics. First thing you’ll find when you Google the boul’ Martin is a video of him with Nigel Farage on a visit to a battery factory and when a member of staff suggests to them that they should consider attaching batteries to immigrants’ backs to make them traceable they laughed their socks off. He’s also the founder of the Men and Boys Coalition, which aims to tackle discrimination against, ah, men and boys.
Before he got into politics, Martin was the editor of the lads’ mag (remember them?) Loaded. His job, as he has cheerily admitted himself, was to get as many topless women in the magazine as possible every month and he and his team counted the nipples visible in every edition to make sure they stayed ahead of rivals Nuts and Zoo.
He recalled in a newspaper article what happened the time they missed their nipple target: ‘Damn, they beat us this month,’ I announced. ‘What are we going to do about it?’ When one wag responded, ‘Why don’t we print 100 pairs of boobs, over six pages, in glorious close-up?’ we all whooped with delight and reported to the pub to celebrate. So it was that we did a ‘We Love Boobs’ special, which notched up a then-record (although by today’s standards relatively tame) 200 nipples.
As an extra layer of schoolboy comedy, we decided to caption each picture with a jokey term for breasts. From ‘aardvarks’ to ‘Zeppelins’, we had it covered.
Now here’s a question for you? Which former editor of a breasts-obsessed lads’ mag said breastfeeding women should “cover up” and that he had been “made to feel uncomfortable” by women feeding their babies near him? Yip, our Martin. So there’s the kind of guy that the BBC gets on to oppose Gary Lineker being nice. Super.
It was inevitable that Martin would accuse Gary of “virtue signalling” during the course of his contribution – along with the word “woke” it has become the go-to insult of the new British right. What it essentially means is that when a person says or does something useful or good – like letting immigrants live in their home – they are not doing so in order to be useful or good people, they are doing so in order to enhance their own reputation or standing. In other words, they are just showing off. “Woke”, meanwhile, used to be a positive description, referring to a person who is alert to and concerned about social justice.
In recent years it’s been hijacked by the American alt-right and twisted to become a form of insult; that insult has inevitably crossed the pond and has been taken up enthusiastically, by English nativists in particular.
You may have noticed that there’s a defining characteristic of the new British right, from Nigel Farage, to Priti Patel, to Rod Liddle, and it’s that they’re not very nice people. Farage strides the coast of Kent like a poundshop Walter Raleigh, scanning the sea not for French men o’war, but for migrant families in dinghies. Patel urged the UK government to threaten Ireland with food shortages during Brexit negotiations. As for Liddle, to save space here just go ahead and Google his name with misogyny, racism and Islamophobia (then stand well back).
So just as Donald Trump doesn’t understand US troops giving their lives in foreign wars because he never joined up himself, so the new British right attacks kindness and niceness because they are traits that are utterly foreign to them – frightening, even.
• Worried about the murder of black people in the US by police? Woke.
• Prefer to rescue English Channel migrants rather than send out a warship? Virtue signaller.
• Desperately concerned about food banks and deepening poverty? Woke virtue signaller.
• Reckon the LGBTQ community deserves a fair shake? Virtue signalling wokeist.
What’s next for the Beeb? Children in Need to bring on a Tory to tell us feeding kids is the parents’ job? Jim Davidson to bring back his Chalky character on Comic Relief? That’d be... nice.
The Brits are at it again
THE Brits are at it again.
Squinter’s going to aim to use that phrase at least once a week from now on for no other reason than it’s soon going to be redundant. For even if you don’t believe that the Brits are always at it now, there’s no denying that that time is not far off.
Dominic Cummings has thrown a hand grenade into the UK’s Brexit negotiations by suggesting that the Boris Johnson government is to introduce legislation that will junk the Withdrawal Agreement that the UK struck with the EU last year.
It means that the painstakingly negotiated deal that avoided a hard border in Ireland by allowing the north to continue to follow EU customs rules when the transition period ends at the end of the year is toast.
The Northern Ireland Protocol will effectively be killed off, reported the Financial Times at the weekend, by the upcoming UK Internal Market Bill which will contain provisions that will trump the international treaty. In classic Cummings style, the Tories have been attempting to spread confusion and uncertainty.
After feeding the story to the FT, ministers began briefing that the new legislation would only bring “clarification” to the Withdrawal Agreement, and what clarification there was would be “minor” in nature. One of the benefits of Boris Johnson’s colourfully gaffe-ridden career is that it allows journalists like Squinter to do something that we very rarely do in print, or indeed online.
And that is to call him a liar. A bubbler, if you will. A spoofer. Mr Pants-On-Fire. Normally, putting that four-letter word in an article would be enough to give the most hardened editor a fainting fit. But not where the man-child Johnson is concerned. He’s quite literally been sacked for lying. Twice. Once for making up a quote when he was a journalist, once for lying to his boss about having an affair while his wife was up the duff. He throws his hands up to these, but to be fair to him he has denied lying to the queen about his reasons for proroguing parliament. Squinter’s going to leave it up to you to rule on that one. And so the threat of an intervention by m’learned friends that hangs like a shadow over every newsroom in Ireland and Britain is not a consideration in this matter. Which is why Squinter is able to say that you shouldn’t believe anything that comes from the Boris Johnson government because Boris Johnson is a liar. “Lying liar lies some more”. The Guardian.“Johnson is a shameless, pathological liar”. The Mirror.“Boris Johnson isn’t a bad liar, he’s an expert”.
The Independent. “Boris Johnson is a proven liar”. The Times. Much as Johnson would love to get a bloke in a dusty wig to order these august publications to stop calling him a liar and pay him large sums to assuage his hurt feelings, there’s about as much chance of that happening as there is of Squinter suing somebody who accused him of despising Nigel Farage.
The EU knows Johnson’s a liar and deals with him accordingly, needless to say. The DUP, meanwhile, knows that Johnson is a liar but keep going back to him for more in the hope that the portly leopard can change his spots, which is why we’ve seen the almost Shakespearean drama of intra-DUP rivalries proceed to this next act. Party leader Arlene Foster had given up on the NI Protocol.
She talked herself hoarse saying no unionist could ever accept a border in the Irish Sea, and such was the horror that greeted first the prospect of the NI Protocol and then the reality that it appeared to many that Arlene would go back to filing whiplash claims and conveyancing in Lisnaskea before she’d accept it. But this weekend it happened. Speaking to Sky News, the First Minister said the fight against the Protocol was over. She added: “I mean, there are some who would continue to fight against the Protocol, I have to recognise that that is the reality now.”
She added: “And what I have to do as a leader of unionism in Northern Ireland is to make sure that I mitigate against the damage to the union. And actually, instead of worrying about the damage, actually take steps to actually strengthen the union.” Actually. And there it might have ended, Arlene taking a bit of a hit from hardline unionists disgusted at what they see as another sell-out, but winning kudos from a majority who acknowledged that the deed was done.
But then Sammy Wilson intervened. No sooner had words issued from Arlene’s lips than he came out fighting, claiming that no unionist worthy of the name could ever accept the deal and that in the tragic opera that has been the DUP’s Brexit performance, the fat lady had yet to sing.
And then the Financial Times story emerged.So there’s Arlene, faced now with the very real prospect of the horror deal she’d just finally agreed to being scrubbed. And there’s Sammy, rushing on to the radio to claim that, shucks, I may have played a small part in this development, but, you’re too kind and I couldn’t possibly accept all the praise (but keep saying nice things anyway). In other words, Arlene’s left looking like Chicken Licken and Sammy’s left looking like the cock of the walk.
Was this some sort of Machiavellian master stroke by Sammy, or was Arlene undone by a universe-bending coincidence? To believe the former you’d have to accept that the DUP’s Westminster cadre has any sway with Dominic Cummings, who once famously opined that he doesn’t care if This Here Pravince “falls into the f***ing sea”. You’d have to accept that Johnson and Cummings, with a hefty Commons majority, have given the DUP their place back at the top table, even though their Westminster numbers mean nothing to the UK government.
Smart money’s on this being another Cummings/Johnson gamble ahead of the most crucial part of the Brexit talks since the last most crucial part. We’ve all heard of collateral damage, but if No.10 is serious then the DUP are going to be collateral winners.
And given the four years they’ve had, they’ll happily take that.